The Amman Rundown
As one of the most modern, cosmopolitan and tolerant destinations in the Middle East and Arab world, the capital of the Kingdom of Jordan is a popular tourist target. Few geopolitical academics dispute the fact that Amman has a rosy future. The city, as a cultural, financial and political hub fast on the rise, is a beacon in a part of the world that can sometimes feel archaic.
Yet for all the youthful energy, hope and jouissance that permeates the shiny, Euro-like nightclubs, malls and restaurants of this city of 2.5 million plus people, Amman still has one foot in antiquity and tradition. Dusty, threadbare ruins on Jabal al Qal'a (Citadel Hill) hint that the history of Amman and Jordan plays out in the Old Testament. Indeed, the city dwells in a venerable ‘hood and on the doorstep of priceless UNESCO World Heritage gems like Petra, Jerusalem and Damascus. Calls to prayer too, still radiate from mosques and echo through streets old and new, albeit with a boost from modern technology.
It is precisely in modernity and economic success where Amman stands out. The urban heart of Jordan may lack the chops to compete with the ancient suqs and madrasahs that infuse other capitals in North Africa and the Middle East with so much inherent charm but, in the end, it matters not. Visitors find plenty to love in this newly international and kinetic city - and tend to come back for more.
Amman’s Top 10
10. Mango House is an architectural masterpiece from the 1940s built by two wealthy industrialist brothers.
5. King Hussein Mosque dates back to 1924 and sits on the site of a temple from the 7th century. The mosque is a major nexus point of civic life in Amman.
9. The Mufti House, across the street from the Mango House, is the villa of a former three-time prime minister.
4. King Abdullah I Mosque is the grand and magnificent mosque of the city, with room for more than 3,000 faithful.
8. Byzantine Church Ruins of Amman date back to the 6th century and afford beautiful views over the city.
3. Royal Automobile Museum, on the outskirts of Amman, shows the kind of cool toys sovereign wealth can finance.
7. National Gallery of Fine Arts exhibits old and contemporary works from Jordan and the Muslim world.
2. Jordan Archaeological Museum displays a priceless collection of ancient artefacts.
6. Darat al-Funun is a hillside cultural complex with a contemporary art gallery, art library and space for concerts and workshops.
1. Citadel-Jabal al Qal'a is Amman’s Roman Forum. The hill complex is a nonpareil open-air museum with ruins that date back 7,000 years.
- Citadel Hill of Amman – Once the Temple of Hercules for the Romans who occupied this city in the 2ndcentury.
- Roman Forum – Built by the Romans to seat 6,000 spectators, this theatre is still used.
- Qasr Al-Abad – No one is sure how old these ruin are, only that they predate the period of Roman rule.
- Military Museum – This small museum is the guardian of Jordan’s military history beginning in 1916.
- Nymphaeum – Originally a two-storey structure built in the 2ndcentury under Roman rule.
Amman Art & Culture
- Jordan Archaeological Museum – This splendid museum is home to relics and artefacts from Jordan’s past.
- King Abdullah Mosque – Built in the 1980s, this mosque can house more than 3,000 visitors.
- Jabal Amman – One of the original hilltops that formed early Amman, the old downtown is for tourists.
- Al Pasha Turkish Bath – Full service at this facility includes time in the sauna, soft drinks and a full massage.
- Jordanian National Gallery of Fine Arts – See exhibits of Jordanian painting and other art forms here.
- Mecca Mall – Located on Mecca Street, this mall contains 22 restaurants, eight cinemas and other entertainment.
- Walakat Street – You can find many clothes from major labels in the shops here.
- Sweifieh – Nearly large enough to qualify as a city itself, this section of Amman is the main shopping area.
- Zara Shopping Centre – A large collection of various shops and stores in downtown Amman.
- Abdoun Mall –This mall opened in 2001 and covers more than 25 square kilometres.
Amman Gay & Lesbian
- Drop – This gay-friendly rave is held every Thursday night in changing locations.
- Culture Street – Male sex workers congregate here late at night.
- Books@Cafe – A dark, retro bar and restaurant that is gay friendly.
- Toledo Hotel – A gay hangout and meeting place on Al-Razi Street.
- InterContinental Hotel – A posh hotel that is also gay friendly.
- Petra – Take a day trip from Amman to this ancient city preserved in the desert.
- Dead Sea – In an hour, you can be at the shore of the Dead Sea, the lowest elevation on Earth.
- Wadi Rum – A full-day tour explores this wilderness location where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed.
- Baptist Sights – A tour of the Jordan River where John the Baptist may have been.
- Gliding Club – The Marka Airport in Amman supports gliding activities out of its facilities.
- Watch a football game between Al-Wahdat, a local football club that has been the national champion on several occasions.
- See an auto racing competition held on a course around the Dead Sea.
- Take a golf lesson at Bisharat Golf Course with a resident pro.
- Play tennis or take a swim at the Olympic-sized swimming pool at the Tennis Courts.
- Learn to ride a horse or a camel at the Royal Racing Club.
With a metropolitan population of 5.2 million that encompasses close to 8 out of every 10 residents of Jordan, Amman is a considerable city. The urban area of the national capital covers 1,680 km<sup>2</sup> and unfurls innumerable districts, precincts and neighbourhoods.
Jabal Amman is one of the original hills of the old city and contains some notable architecture and landmarks, from Mango House to Al-Mufti House.
Central Amman is the most historic area of the capital, with landmarks like the Umayyad Palace and Roman Amphitheater.
Abdoun is the most prosperous neighbourhood in Amman and a vibrant commercial and nightlife district.
Al Abdali is a compact 15 km<sup>2</sup> enclave in the heart of the city. The populous district includes the neighbourhoods of Shmeisani, Sports City, Jabal al Hussein, Jabal Luweibdeh and landmarks like the Royal Cultural Center, Parliament, Palace of Justice and King Abdullah I Mosque.
Andalucia, in a fashion typical of the new Amman, is an affluent, purpose-built town and community 20 km from downtown.
Sweifieh is an upscale nightlife, retail and residential district with some of the most exclusive shops, clubs and restaurants in the city. A cultural hub with a red-light, Soho-like reputation.
Amman Eat & Drink
The culinary landscape of Jordan is quintessentially Levantine in style, with emphasis on traditional mezze dishes found throughout the region, North Africa and the Middle East. Try the national dish, mansaf, a rich, addictive blend of lamb, yoghurt, flatbread and pine nuts.
Tawaheen al-Hawa (Wasfi al-Tal Road, Jubilee Gardens) is a gargantuan tour group favourite that doles out endless mezze and grill items. Well worth the detour from downtown Amman.
Blue Fig Café (Prince Hashem bin al-Hussein Street, Jabal Amman) serves chic coffee drinks, desserts and snacks.
Romero Restaurant (Mohammed Hussein Haikal Street, Jabal Amman) is a capable trattoria kitchen with some of the best pasta in town.
Tannoureen Restaurant (Shatt al-Arab Street, Umm Utheina) is a no-frills Lebanese restaurant with loyal clientele.
Ata Ali (Abdul Hameed Sharaf Street, Shmeisani) whips up addictive desserts and exotic ice creams.
Abu Ahmad Orient Restaurant (3rd Circle, Jabal Amman) has some of the best hot and cold mezze in the city.
Diwan al-Sultan Ibrahim Restaurant (Ocean Hotel, Shatt al-Arab Street, Umm Utheina) targets well-to-do locals and expats with high-end Lebanese and continental cuisine.
Batata (Abu Bakr as-Siddiq Street, Downtown) makes chips with obsessive attention to quality and details.
Reem Cafeteria (2nd Circle, Jabal Amman) is Amman’s late-night pit stop par excellence.
Cairo Restaurant (Al-Malek Talal Street, Downtown) serves affordable, delicious and generous portions of carnivorous classics.
Amman may not be a cultural dynamo in the mold of a Damascus or Cairo but the city still musters a decent array of events and festivals throughout the year.
Souk Jara is a May to October summer event that features food, live music and special events for the kids at Fawzy Malouf Street every Friday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Amman Food Festival is a gastronomic parade of the capital in late September.
Amman International Theatre Festival is a paragon celebration of poetry, classical music and theatre at the Royal Cultural Center every February.
Jordan Short Film Festival features a lineup of Arab and international shorts in late November.
Traditional hammams soothe and melt cares away in vibrant Amman, with several superb locales to choose from.
When To Go
The weather can change on a dime in Amman, as the city has a few notable micro-climate enclaves. On the whole, hot summers and cool to mild winters characterise the average yearly meteorological pulse of the capital. Visitors who want a comfortable time in the city may want to target the months of April, May, October and November and avoid the cold, rainy spells of winter and oppressive summer heatwaves that unleash temperatures in the 95°F (35°C) range.
Snow is not out of the question from December to February, with conditions that hover between 58°F (14.5°C) and 38.5°F (3.5°C) and, from time to time, below 32°F (0°C). Amman’s high altitude often results in snowy squalls in one section of the city and rain in another. While the spectacle of a foot-high snow drift in a city in the Levant, of all places, is a good photo op for the online travel album, the capital of Jordan is best in spring and autumn.
What To Miss
Jordan is possibly the safest country in the Arab world for tourism. Indeed, the vast majority of British nationals who visit Amman face little to no incidents or trouble whatsoever. The country is still relatively conservative, however, and as such, non-Muslim tourists must respect local religious customs, traditions and laws. Transgress on the side of caution in the attire department and take a pass on flamboyant public displays of affection. Female travellers may not want to walk alone late at night.
Cab drivers cause inordinate headaches for the minority of tourists who do undergo hardship in the capital. As with many a busy city with a noticeable lack of transport regulations, some taxis freelance and eschew the use of a meter, especially with visibly non-Arabic passengers. Be careful to discuss fares beforehand or ensure the meter is in proper order and specify your exact destination. If you decide to hire a car and driver for the day, do so with the help of a reputable hotel concierge.
Visitors who want to explore the likes of Syria or Saudi Arabia will need to take care of all the necessary red tape and paperwork prior to arrival in Jordan. If your passport has trace evidence of travel to Israel, you will not be able to enter Syria or Saudi Arabia, even with a valid visa.
Queen Alia International is the main hub for Royal Jordanian Airlines and the airport of record in the country. Some visitors to Amman do arrive, however, via charter and regional service to Amman Civil Airport. Destinations on the Queen Alia International roster include London-Heathrow, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Rome-Fiumicino, Istanbul-Ataturk, Kuala Lumpur, Madrid-Malpensa, Moscow-Sheremetyevo, Mumbai, New York-JFK and Tel Aviv. In the wake of a significant increase in passenger arrivals, from 2.3 million in 2002 to 5.4 million in 2010, the airport will double capacity by 2012.
From Queen Alia International to Amma proper, most visitors opt for a taxi or express bus. Within the city, taxi is the most convenient and available, albeit expensive, choice. Amman has a decent and safe public bus system but the fact that drivers do not make change is a nuisance for tourists.
One of the most cosmopolitan and vibrant destinations in the Middle East, the capital of the Kingdom of Jordan is a resplendent contrast of old and new. More like ancient and hyper modern in fact, as Amman is not only one of the most historic settlements in the world, but a city that serves as a major commercial, economic and political hub.
Home to more than 2.5 million people, the city has become a popular tourism destination over the past decade, as more mainstream visitors discover the charm and beauty of Jordan. Under King Abdullah II and Queen Rania, Amman has undergone monumental strides in terms of development and cultural preservation. As such, while attractions like the Jordan Archaeological Museum and Jabal al Qal'a (or Citadel Hill) display the ancient history of the country, the Abdali Downtown project and upmarket shops and restaurants of West Amman reflect a new push towards economic prosperity.
Amman enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with four distinct seasons and favorable weather throughout the year.
- Winter (December to February) -4-9°C
- Spring (March to May) 4-19°C
- Summer (June to September) 14-29°C
- Fall (October to November) 5-21°C
Amman On Wikipedia
Amman official guide
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